The Prairie Dog
Cynomys ludovicianus, known more commonly as the prairie dog, has more traditionally been viewed as the pariah of the prairie. However within the last year, attention has been drawn to these furry little rodents. They are extremely unpopular-so much so that for decades the Federal Government has tried desperately to eliminate them. What the government doesn't know is that these creatures are vital to the survival and thriving of several species, and are in fact an asset to our world. Prairie dogs are rodents, closely related to their predator, the black-footed ferret. They live in complicated underground systems, or communities sometimes called "dog towns". These dog towns are scattered across the prairie from Canada to Mexico. They graze, run rampant, and dart from one opening to another in continuous action. This action attracts several other plains animals including bison, burrowing owls, golden eagles, ferruginous hawks, antelope, coyotes, and others. The prairie dog is the center of the Great Plains' animal community. There are only a handful of sites in the entire West where the species is not under eradication. It is speculated that the species has declined 98 percent across its habitat. In national parks, prairie dogs colonies are fragmented, isolated, and downright tiny. Today only seven parks hold prairie dog populations. Four places- Ben's Old Fort National Historic Site, Scott's Bluff National Monument, Devil's Tower National Monument, and Fort Laramie National Historic Site- active dog towns are no more than 20 acres. The other three- Badlands, Wind Cave, and Theodore Roosevelt National park- are larger. But the biggest, the Badlands, is barely 4,200 acres. The total area occupied by prairie dogs isn't more than 6,000 acres. At the turn of the century, one Texas prairie dog town measured 100 by 250 miles-- almost the size of Maine. About 400 million animals lived there. In the 1920's, it was estimated that the population of...
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